Why New Search Engine Blekko Will Fail

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A new search engine has launched. Chances are that unless you are a member of the techie community, and spend a fair amount of time reading about online internet services on techie blogs, you have no idea that it happened. That’s fine, because the new search engine Blekko is doomed already.

blekko-search-engineThe truth is that Google’s search algorithm grows less useful every day. Far too many people, for far too long, have been gaming a system that wasn’t really all that clever in the first place. The reality is that Google makes many very big, and naive, assumptions in its search rankings, like the only reason someone links to another page is that they think it’s good.

The only reason it still stands as the number one search engine is because no one has come up with a better search ranking algorithm AND paired it with an index that rivals Google’s.

It’s that last part that makes it difficult to judge other search engines and the quality of their rankings. The greatest webpage ranking system in the world is worthless if it does not have the ability to rank all of the web pages out there.

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Blekko Search Fail

Before we get to how good Blekko is as a search engine, let’s start by saying that it has failed before it even matters.

The key to using Blekko is something called a hash tag. You either no what that is, or you don’t. If you do, great. If not, then Blekko is a search engine that you have to learn to use. FAIL.

Search is a basic function that people already believe that they know how to do. In reality, most people are terrible at searching, and by extension terrible at using Google search engine. For example, searching for something like, “life insurance” is just not smart. After all, what is it that you are looking for with that search?

  • Do you want to know what life insurance is?
  • Do you want to know how life insurance works?
  • Do you want to know what kind of life insurance there is?
  • Do you want to know who the life insurance companies are?
  • Do you want to buy life insurance?
  • Do you want to get a license to sell life insurance?

Obviously, a search like this one is a bad search and whatever Google, or anyone else, returns as your search results has to be considered good enough, because there isn’t really enough information to go on.

As a rule of thumb, if you are searching on less than three words, it’s a bad search.

You can get much better search results from Google by not only searching for more words, but by using Google search operators. Put a phrase inside quotation marks, and Google will search for pages with that exact phrase. Use the minus sign and Google will find webpages that match your search but do not include the word with the minus sign. Finally, use site: to limit Google to only searching a single website domain, or a certain type of domain.

For example, if you want real, straight, unbiased, ad-free tax information then add site:irs.gov as the last word of any search you make. The site operator restricts Google to bringing back the highest ranked webpage from the IRS instead of the webpage that spends the most time building links pointing to it with the right anchor text.

Almost no one who searches Google each day uses ANY of the search operators to improve their searches. At best, they just keep trying different combinations of words until they find something that looks about right.

If no one has bothered to learn anything about how to use Google other than to type words into a box, and it has been the ONLY really respected search engine for years, then how likely do you think it is that anyone will put the time and effort into learning how to use hashtags for search?

Blekko Search Algorithm and SlashTag

Blekko’s slashtags are re-branded hashtags. Instead of using #keyword like on Twitter, you use /keyword, hence slash-tag.

The idea is that you perform you search for the information you want with a slashtag. The slashtag makes your search results better.

What is a slashtag?

Good question. A slash-tag is a useful keyword or phrase created by blekko users in which they group the best websites and webpages they have found. This human element eliminates those glaring mistakes made by Google where some spammer’s ad filled webpage ends up #1 in Google search results because he uses bots to build backlinks by spamming blogs and article spinners to post “original” articles all over the web with links back to his webpage using the targeted link text every time.

Blekko works because none of the true, honest, and good-hearted, blekko users would ever include such a junk website in their slashtags.

And, therein lies the rub.

How Blekko Will Fail

Blekko can, and may be, successful as long as it stays a small, under the radar, not worth the time, search engine. Then, the Pollyanna style world envisioned by the blekko search engine just might work. But, the day it is even a minor factor in the world of search, or as a generator of traffic, the dream dies and along with it, blekko.

If we have learned anything in the past decade or two, it is that the only thing less useful than a slow-moving manually created web directory, ala Yahoo Directory, is a fast-moving, automated, platform built around user input. Before it’s rebuild kicked them all out, Digg’s front page was populated almost exclusively by stories dug by a small set of power users that dedicated themselves to manipulating Digg at every stage. The honest, kind-hearted, Digg users (the same group blekko is counting on) couldn’t get on the front page to save their lives.

How long before slashtags for mortgage are filled not with the best mortgage resources on the web, but a SEO consultant’s client list? Then comes the internet marketers pushing their own websites, and those of other IM-ers who will return the favor in kind. After that comes the outright spammers and bots. Blekko will fight them off the best it can, but in the end, those willing to do just under the level of what it takes to be banned will overtake blekko and any usefulness it has as a search engine.

The company’s ideal is that by using your friend’s slashtags, or those of well known blekko-ers (?), that the spammers slashtags will be relegated to the unused pile of trash at the bottom of the Blekko well. Unfortunately, that means that you have to have friends using Blekko first, and not just a little either. They need to be building tons of useful slash tags in order to cover all the topics you search on. Barring that, you’ll need to already know where good expert resources on a topic are in order to use their slashtags.

Sure, you can use the BestHubris slashtags. I jumped in and created an account to try it out 🙂

But, if you don’t already know that BestHubris is a great resource for business strategy information, computer software interface design criticism, and a wealth of online marketing resources, then how will you use my slashtags?

You can search for slashtags, of course. Search for /life-insurance, like the poor Google user from our example above. Today, you won’t find an overwhelming list, but if blekko takes off, that won’t be the case. When that happens, what is the difference between trying to decide whose life insurance slashtags to trust and trying to decide which of Google’s search results for life insurance to trust?

There isn’t one, and that is the whole point.

One last thing to remember is that your friends do not know everything you will ever need to know, no matter how big of a group that is. For example, might hot water heater is leaking out the bottom. I have lot of friends, and a lot of them have had a hot water heater replaced, or installed, or fixed by a plumber. Still not one of them knows enough to give me advice. Certainly none of them knows enough to create a slashtag, even if they had heard of blekko.

In the end, the only way to know everything is to look at everything. That’s what Google’s search spiders do each and every day. Ranking the web pages they send back regardless of whether or not you know (or can find anyone) anything about those topics is what its automated algorithm does.

Human users end up either messing up that information with their own self interest, or worse, unknown self ignorance, or they end up just not having the information at all.

Lest you think that I’m just opposed to blekko, you are wrong. I love blekko. If its index is deep enough, blekko could be the best search engine for research online.

Have you tried Blekko search engine?

Do you think blekko will succeed?

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2 thoughts on “Why New Search Engine Blekko Will Fail”

  1. Ninja says:

    Who can take geek face Rich Skrenta serious anyways? Blekko is like an expensive joke.

  2. Becky says:

    Blekko sounds like it had a god idea in mind. However, I think that it won’t be successful due to the realtime search engines that have been developing and growing. I for one use Buzzdock for its simplicity and unobstrusive design. It gives me the results I am looking. I use it with Google which only makes things better. I think maybe a new attractive feature such as Buzzdock has (generates realtime results from different social sites) might have given Blekko more of a chance. Like the article says, I hadn’t even heard of this engine.

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